Space X Launches Historic Test Flight for NASA
The Crew Dragon spaceship is SpaceX's first vehicle designed to carry astronauts
Today, Space X took a giant leap toward its goal of bringing humans into space.
For the first time, Space X’s Crew Dragon capsule was launched. The capsule was atop a Falcon 9 Heavy rocket, on a mission to deliver goods to the International Space Station on behalf of NASA.
While the private space company has delivered goods to the ISS before via its Dragon Cargo vehicle, the new $2.6 billion Crew Dragon capsule has something new – windows. And seats for seven astronauts.
This time, however, instead of people, Crew Dragon carried a dummy – technically called an ATD or “anthropomorphic test device” named “Ripley,” after the protagonist in the “Alien” movies, fitted out with sensors to assure that the spaceship will be able to safely carry people.
And so far, everything is looked good for Space X, whose Chief Executive Elon Musk, hopes to someday bring humans to Mars to start a colony.
The weather was just fine for the launch at 2:49 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (9:49 a.m. in Kyiv). It blasted off from Launch Pad 39A — the site of the last crewed American orbital spaceflight, the STS-135 mission of the space shuttle Atlantis back in 2011. Since that time, NASA’s relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to bring its astronauts to the ISS – at $80 million a seat.
Despite the hour, crowds could be heard cheering as they watched the massive 2-stage rocket blast off, its Merlin rocket engines lighting the dark.
After about 10 minutes, the first stage of the rocket flew back to Earth, perfectly landing on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” stationed off the Florida coast. And a minute later, Crew Dragon separated from the rocket’s second stage and started making its way toward the ISS, which it is expected to dock with on Sunday at about 1 p.m. Kyiv time.
After delivering its cargo, Demo-1, as the mission is called, will return to Earth. It’s expected to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean on March 8 at about 9:30 a.m. Kyiv time.
If all goes well, a high-altitude mission-abort test is planned for June- although Musk has said it could happen as soon as April. A successful abort test would pave the way for Demo-2 in July.
That historic test flight would send two NASA astronauts — Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, each of whom has two shuttle missions under his belt — to the ISS.
It would make the United States once-again capable of independently bringing astronauts into space. It would show that private industry is capable of bringing humans into space. It would also be a step toward SpaceX’s larger goal of bringing people to Mars.